Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, a game that will forever be remembered as a sniping experience that showed nothing but promise, and I mean that literally. Much like the Sniper Elite series (only not even half as good) Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 has you putting your tactical thinking caps on as you go about stalking your prey, taking your shot, and getting the hell out of dodge. That may sound great on paper, but the final product is anything but. CI Games have taken the wise decision to push the series into the open world setting, namely modern-day Georgia.
The game throws you into the roll of Jon North, and after a somewhat pointless black flash you return to the current day and learn that both you and your brother Robert have been sent on an infiltration assignment. It’s not long before the proverbial shit hits the fan and your brother (for god knows what reason) is kidnapped by Georgian terrorists. Once again the game flashes forward by a total of two years and Jon has seemingly been sent back to Georgia to destabilise the chain of terrorism. However with Robert still missing in action, Jon is all the more eager to bastardise the mission and search for his brother as well, and in some cases, instead.
It’s almost instantly apparent that both Jon and Robert are about as dull as they come, and their story is anything but deep and meaningful. Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 really doesn’t even attempt to impress with its story telling, with most of the voice cast sounding as though they’ve just found out they’re doing the job for free. Some of the voice actors do try to convey a decent performance, but much of this is lost in an ocean of dialogue that’s poorly written and (overall) blandly delivered. The only real standout performance is that of Lydia Jorjadze, Jon’s ex-girlfriend who will be aiding you along the way.
Gameplay revolves around visiting your safe-house, which doubles up as a location in which you can craft weapons, take on assignments, time leap, and change your loadout. Crafting is made completely redundant by the vast amount of rewards you are given for even the most basic of missions. In fact, I only needed to craft once during my entire play-through. When you’ve chosen your mission, you’re free to venture out into the open world and do pretty much whatever you like. The world isn’t particularly packed with content, but a layer of replay value and longevity can be found via taking on several strongholds, optional side quests, and nabbing collectable antique sniper rifles.
When you’re not doing any of that you’ll be following the trail of 26 missions that make up the campaign. Gameplay is broken down into three distinct playstyles, Sniper, Ghost, and Warrior. Each of these aspects come with their very own (albeit short) skill-trees. Skills are rewarded based on how you play, which is to say Sniper for shooting, Ghost for stealth, and Warrior for combat. If you want to take on your missions in Chuck Norris run-and-gun style, you can do just that. Doing so will reward you with better explosion radius, reload speed, and more. Playing with the ghost style in mind will gift you with quieter movements and auto-loot functionality when you perform melee. Whereas playing with the sniper style will nab you abilities such as steadier hand movement and decreased visibility.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 certainly doesn’t force you to play using a specific method, and you’re freely able to go at each mission exactly how you please. It goes without saying that sniping is the most fun. The implementation of bullet-time when you line up a perfect shot is as satisfying as ever, and although it comes without Sniper Elite’s X-ray mechanic, it’s still an absolute joy to observe the merits of your accuracy. Oddly enough the game will often not render your bullet during the slow-mo animation, meaning that at least a handful of times, you’re watching your foes take an invisible bullet to the head.
Each location you’re sent to will be packed with enemies, sniper nests, ammo caches, and more. The developers have done a remarkable job at ensuring that each area houses plenty of cover and multi-tiered structures or buildings. The NPC’s are also well spaced out, and although their awareness of their surroundings are well set, they don’t really have a clue as to what the hell is going on when things go south. They’ll either rush you, regardless as to whether you gave your position away or not, or they’ll carry on about their business and never mind about the guy lying on the ground with an exit wound in the back of his thick melon. It’s unfortunate, especially when these areas are full of tactical potential.
Either way there’s a great sense of reward when you make your way to any given area (using the only vehicle in the game available to you) and get to work. You can tag enemies from afar using your scope or drone, watch their movements, and generally get a feel for where you’re best suited to take on the task, dependent on your playstyle. Which leads me to the melee. Would you believe it if I told you that even the developers don’t seem to know what button will melee a foe? Allow me to explain. Whenever you run there is a notification in the top right corner of the screen that tells you that RT will melee. Imagine my shock when I found that RS is actually the melee button. Thank you CI Games, thank you.
What I will say in favour of Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 is that there’s plenty of choice at your disposal. You can suit yourselves up with some really cool gear that include items such as trip wires, trembler warnings, grenades, explosive bullets, and more. This encourages and entices you to test out different loadouts and scenarios, something this game dishes out by the bucket load. This diverse array of firepower comes in especially useful for those times in which you’re detected and you need to haul ass to a new vantage point before the AI come down on you like a ton of bricks. That’s one thing that the game gets right, meaning you can go from Agent 47 to Rambo in the space of a blink.
The biggest problem with this game doesn’t sit with inconsistent systems or wonky AI, nope, that honour has been reserved for the loading times and the frame rate. Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 has more frame rate drops than in any shooter I’ve seen since the launch build of Homefront Revolution. We game in a time where developers think that it’s okay to release now and fix later, and while that may be marginally acceptable for smaller issues, it certainly isn’t acceptable for something as damning as what we have here. Group that with loading times that can exceed 3 minutes a pop, and you’ve got some blatantly obvious optimisation issues that CI Games clearly knew about before shipping this out. It’s lazy, it’s sloppy, and it’s a slap to anyone who purchases this prior to a potential fix.
Sniper Ghost Warrior 3 could have been an amazing experience and a defining sniper game at that. The visuals are well detailed and the open world map has been designed extraordinarily well. However all of this means nothing when the game has you waiting for excessive amounts of time for an adventure that stutters constantly and presents you with several other issues throughout. CI Games have made a commendable effort, but haven’t backed that effort up with quality. When you take into account that the game doesn’t support multiplayer, you’re going to need to be an extremely forgiving person to overlook the mess that sits within. Neat features like scope elevation and bullet time add that tactical and exciting edge respectively, but not enough to save this from the bargain bin.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.